When the Lovell Bulldogs fell to Lyman two weeks ago, the playoffs began, even though there were two weeks left in the regular season.
That upset loss made every game that followed a must-win game, and the Bulldogs successfully cleared round one by routing the Kemmerer Rangers 47-7 Friday night on senior night at Robertson Stadium.
“We didn’t play well at Lyman (a 28-20 loss on Oct. 7),” coach Doug Hazen said. “We blew a bunch of chances. So coming into Kemmerer you can’t underestimate them. From that point forward every game is a playoff game. Another loss will end the season for us.”
Kemmerer came into the game 0-6 and riding a 34-game losing streak.
“When you play a team that is not doing well you have to focus on us and fix the things we were not doing well,” Hazen said. “I do think we got better last week. We were able to execute well on offense, and we created five or six turnovers on defense, and on two of them our defense scored.
“Most of our plays went for positive yards. There weren’t a lot of wasted plays, and we overcame our penalties. Defensively, we allowed maybe one or two first downs with our varsity.”
The Lovell starters outscored Kemmerer 47-0 in the first half, starting with a six-yard touchdown pass on a slant from Reece May to Kaleb Mayes. The PAT failed, but Lovell led 6-0.
The Bulldogs scored again about four minutes later when May hit Brandon Teter for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
“It was an audible Reece called,” Hazen said. “Brandon ran a fly route and Reece threw a very nice ball. It was windy, but you couldn’t have handed it to Brandon any better. Brandon caught it in stride and kept running.”
Lovell made it 20-0 two minutes later on a scoop and score by Porter Nichols, the first of two defensive touchdowns by the Bulldogs. Kemmerer was running an option play when Trace Murphey hit the quarterback on an option pitch. The ball hit the turf and Nichols picked it up and ran about 40 yards, Hazen said.
After stopping the Rangers, Lovell scored again early in the second quarter when May hit Mayes on a quick sideline pass and the lanky senior took it 33 yards for a touchdown. Hazen said left tackle Ben Bates made an exceptional block on the edge to free Mayes.
Leading 27-0, Lovell scored another defensive touchdown, again on a scoop and score. Senior tackle Jaret Collins hit the quarterback as he turned to hand off the ball on a reverse. The ball came loose and Riley Abraham grabbed it and ran it in from about 10 yards out. Lovell led 33-0 (PAT failed).
Tyler Teter scored two more touchdowns for the Bulldogs in the first half, a one-yard run and a 48-yard burst on a counter. Hazen said Bates and Kade Gifford pulled and paved the way for the long run.
Hazen played the junior varsity and freshmen in the second half with the clock running, and Kemmerer got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter on a one-yard run.
“It was nice that, on senior night, everyone was able to play a significant amount,” Hazen said. “In fact, every player suited up on the sideline got into the game.”
May completed five of eight passes for 118 yards, Logan Hitz one of three for 6 yards. Brandon Teter caught two passes for 58 yards, Mayes two for 39 yards, Abraham one for 21 yards and Dalton Nixon one for 6 yards.
Ty Teter led the Bulldogs with 97 yards rushing on 27 carries. Abraham added 55 yards on three carries, May 32 yards on six carries and Hitz 23 yards on one carry.
Twenty-nine players recorded at least one defensive point Friday led by Collins with 11 points on six assisted tackles, one solo tackle and one tackle for a loss. Murphey added 10 points on six assisted and two solo tackles. Kurt McNabb had 9 points, Kade Gifford and Porter Nichols 8 points each.
Do or die
It’s win or else for the Bulldogs Friday at Pinedale. If the Bulldogs win, they will finish in third place. If they lose, they will be out of the playoffs, assuming that Lyman beats Kemmerer.
Win and the Bulldogs will place third behind Mountain View and Greybull, with Pinedale fourth thanks to an earlier win over Lyman. Lose, and Pinedale would place third. Assuming Lyman beats winless Kemmerer, the Eagles would get into the playoffs and Lovell would stay home by virtue of the loss at Lyman two weeks ago.
“It’s third or nothing,” Hazen said.
Like Lovell, Pinedale comes into the game 4-3 following a 44-13 loss at Greybull last week. The Wranglers are 3-2 (like Lovell) in the conference with wins over Lyman, Big Piney and Kemmerer and losses to Mountain View and Greybull. Pinedale also lost to Glenrock and beat Wheatland.
“They’re a good team. They’re a physical team,” Hazen said. “They run more than they pass, similar to us, and they have big kids, physical kids.
“They run an offset I, and their running back (Taylor Jensen) is a tough runner who runs hard. Their quarterback (Spencer Criddle) is a big, strong kid who runs hard and has a good arm. Their fullback is the key. He gets everything going as a lead blocker, and they get him involved on some trap plays.”
On defense, Pinedale runs a 4-3-4 and Hazen said he expects the Wranglers to blitz “early and often.”
“It’s going to be interesting. It’s a must win,” Hazen said. “I hope our players believe how talented they are and how good we can be when we execute the way we know we can. It would be a shame for them to not make the playoffs.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in Pinedale.
By David Peck